It started last summer. Chest pains, heart palpitations, and any time I did anything physical I experienced shortness of breath. I thought, “My God, I am really out of shape. I have got to get off this couch and start working out again.”
In July, I told my doctor about my symptoms. He gave me EKG’s in his office, nothing. A stress test, nothing. I wore a heart monitor for 48 hours, not much….
The night before Thanksgiving, I was cooking the two dishes that I was taking to our family dinner when the phone rang. It was my sister-in-law calling to talk about what time to be at their place tomorrow. I was so breathless talking to her that I had to hang up. I couldn’t talk and cook at the same time. I was really struggling to breath. As I was cooking my second dish, a dear friend who used to be a paramedic called. We talk all the time and he has heard me breathless before. Anytime we talked and I did any work as we talked, he heard my breathing change. But that night was different.
Concerned, he said, “Lisa, I have heard that kind of breathlessness before. You have a blockage and you need to see a cardiologist.”
The day after Thanksgiving, I was at my moms and decided to go to the emergency room to get checked out. I didn’t think I was having a heart attack, but I did think that they would give me the tests my doctor was obviously missing. I was ushered in immediately, hooked up to EKG machines, given an aspirin, a chest x-ray and blood work. After a few hours, the ER doctor came in.
“You aren’t having a heart attack,” she stated. “But I do think you should get further testing.”
So, the Monday after Thanksgiving, I called my Doctor. I couldn’t get an appointment for a week. When I walked into his office, I told him what had occurred and that further tests were recommended.
He said, “I don’t think your insurance would pay if I ordered further tests.” I persisted and told him that I knew something was wrong. He then said, “Well, we do have a cardiologist who comes to the office once a week.” He walked me to the reception desk and we made an appointment to see the cardiologist. I couldn’t get in to see him for two weeks. I was angry. Why hadn’t my doctor recommended I see the cardiologist before?
My medical experiences since summer had been: Make an appointment, wait for the appointment, schedule tests, wait for that appointment, take the test, wait for the results, and reschedule an appointment to talk with my doctor about the results. Repeat, repeat, and repeat. I had just about had it with the medical profession!
When I finally saw the cardiologist he said, “I want to do a heart catheterization on you.” It was scheduled for December 30th. I had to go to his office in Port Huron to get an echocardiogram and watch a video of the procedure to be done. I have to admit, the video made me a bit nervous. It showed the procedure and told the statistics. It could cause a heart attack in 2% of the people having it done. If they found something, they would fix it right then and there and it proceeded to show how that was done. The video told me to pack an overnight bag because if I needed a stint, I would have to spend one night in the hospital. I left the office feeling scared.
My sister Robin came out the night before. I showed her where my living will was on my computer. I told her that if anything happened, Mom had to take my kitty boy. She didn’t want to hear what I was telling her, but it was important for me to tell her these things.
We woke early and drove the hour north to the hospital. I was taken into the pre-op room and Robin was able to come with me. An hour later, I was in the cold, sterile operating room. I asked the nurse what he was going to give me to calm me down during the procedure and he said, “Benadryl.” BENADRYL?!?!?!? I didn’t have a cold, I wanted Valium or Xanax or something stronger.
The procedure began at 8:00 am. It hurt like crazy when they poked into the artery in my groin. Dye was injected and I felt warm and strange. After about 15 minutes, the doctor said, “You have a blockage” and showed it to me on the monitor. He told me he was going to inflate it with a balloon and then put a stint in. As he began, I could feel major pressure in my chest and it hurt like hell. He told me to breathe through it. My mouth was so dry from the Benadryl that I couldn’t breathe. This seemed to take about 15 minutes. Then it was over. A nurse had to hold pressure on my groin for 10 minutes, which hurt as badly as the stint placement. Another nurse gave me six pills to swallow but I was told not to lift my head. The pills were Plavix. A blood thinner that I will have to take for the rest of my life.
I was back in the post-op room by 9:10. Robin and I were both pretty surprised. My groin hurt worse than my chest did, and I had to lay flat until 2:00 in the afternoon. I told Robin to get my overnight bag, which had Raymond’s cozy blanket in it. I have named that blanket “the healing blanket.” Raymond used it when he was sick, my dad used it when he was sick, and now I was using it. I told Robin to go home and come back in the morning to pick me up. I wasn’t moved into the cardiac unit until 6:30 p.m. when a bed finally opened up.
The doctor came in the next morning and told me that my artery was 98% blocked. There was no damage to my heart muscle and I should start feeling better immediately.
What he didn’t tell me was how emotional I would be. The following week, I was very weepy. Every time I thought about what I had gone through and the fact that my heart was really sick, I cried. Robin stayed for two days, and then my mom came out and spent two days with me.
It’s been one month since I had the stint put in. I am feeling much better. My energy level is higher and I feel like doing more around the house. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my heart. The doctor said it was due to genetics and high cholesterol. I tend to see things more metaphysically.
After Raymond died, I’d lie in bed at night and pray to die. My heart was broken. Then my dad got sick and died. My heart, more broken than I ever thought possible. I was alone. I wondered what I had to live for? I have no husband or children. I wanted so badly to leave this earth plane and be with Raymond and my Dad. I just wanted to die. Many nights I prayed for God to please take me. Let me die. I almost did.
Our minds are powerful things. Did I create this blockage by praying to die, off and on, for the past two years? My heart was broken. The doctor fixed it. The miracle is, I realized that I want to live. I am not ready to die. Even though I am alone and have no husband or children, I do want to live. I have family. I have friends. I want to travel. I want to experience more of what life has to offer. I want to walk on beaches, in forests and in foreign lands. I am alive! Thank you GOD!
Last summer is when I truly began to feel like I was healing from all the grief and sadness I’ve experienced in the last 3 years. It started slowly but little by little, I began feeling lighter and happier. In October, I decided I needed to leave Algonac and move back home. I look forward to moving back home, being closer to friends and family. I intend to see them as much as possible.
The trailer is sold. The new owners will be coming here in March or April. I’m sure that when I walk out this little mobile home’s door for the last time, I will shed more than a tear. I moved here in 2011, madly in love, with high hopes of a wonderful future with Raymond. We planned to winter in warmer climates. We planned to grow old together. He said he would be here for me when I lost my parents. This home was our love nest. We shared such happiness and laughter here. Since he died, this home has been my healing space. It has held me in its arms, as I lay on the couch unable to move.
I almost died of a broken heart. My heart is healed and I have been given another chance. I’m going home. Grateful to begin the next chapter of my glorious life. Thank you, thank you, thank you God.